For decades, athletes saw emotional vulnerability as something to be shunned, a personal shortcoming that must be internalized and kept out of the limelight at all costs. Competitors seemed to hatch into life as fully formed adults—stoic, hardened and almost inhuman in their single-minded fortitude.
Today, all that is changing. Audiences are coming to value the personal depth and struggles of athletes, beginning with their formative experiences as children. And amid this increasingly crowded field of emotional origin stories (kicked off, of course, by Duracell's amazing Derrick Coleman ad), few can compete with Powerade's new two-minute spot, "Nico's Story."
Nico Calabria, born with one leg, is not a professional athlete. But his story and accomplishments sparked Coca-Cola's sports drink brand to feature him as part of its 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign.
In the ad, by Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam, we watch home videos as Nico grows from a toddler to a confident child and finally into his teen years, when his talent for soccer becomes truly remarkable.
For all the amazing moments in the video, one subtle scene stands out above the rest: Asked how old he is, Nico says he's 8—and the look he gives speaks volumes. In the span of a minute, we've watched him learn to make the most of the body he was born with, and his hard-earned confidence comes across clearly, with little more than a raise of his eyebrows.
Nico went on to climb Mount Kilamonjaro, became a YouTube sensation and landed a spot as the youngest member of the U.S. national amputee soccer team. You can read more about his life in a profile written by Coke to announce the ad.
While brands will continue to bring us more emotional backstories of athletes from every walk of life (with many ending up more cloying than compelling), if even a small number can generate this kind of sincere impact and inspire future generations, the trend definitely won't be a bad thing.
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Amsterdam
Executive Creative Directors: Mark Bernath, Eric Quennoy
Creative Directors: Alvaro Sotomayor, Rosie Bardales
Art Director: Mike Bond
Copywriter: Bernard Hunter
Head of Broadcast Production: Erik Verheijen
Broadcast Producers: Tony Stearns, Lars Fabery de Jonge
Planner: Ben Armistead
Group Account Director: Kirk Johnson
Account Director: Courtney Trull
Account Manager: Alex Allcott
Art Buyer: Maud Klarenbeek
Project Manager: Stacey Prudden
Business Affairs: Emilie Douque
Production Company: Caviar Los Angeles
Director: A.G. Rojas
Directors of Photography: Frederick Backar, Michael Ragan
Producer: Geoff McLean
Executive Producers: Michael Sagol, Jasper Thomlinson
Editing Company: Whitehouse Post London
Editors: Russel Icke, Charlie Harvey
Audio Postproduction: Wave Amsterdam
Sound Designer, Mixer: Alex Nicolls-Lee
Audio Post TVC: GCRS London
Sound Designer TVC: Raja Sehgal
Music TVC: Schmooz France
Artist TVC: Sanj SEN – Powerade 2014 Composition
Music Company TVC: Ultraschmooz
Postproduction: Glassworks Amsterdam
Flame: Kyle Obley, Jesper Nybroe, Bob Rojien
3-D: Tim Bolland, Simon Glas, Eva Kuehlmann
Telecine: Scott Harris
Producer: Armand Weeresinghe
Print Production, Photographer: Levon Biss
Photographers Agent: Seamus O’Cleary @ Bonakdar Cleary
Production Company: Widescope Productions